The Story of Grisell Home
|The grill of the vault at Polwarth Church|
The Homes was the foremost family in the Scottish East March. Their principal stronghold was Home Castle and the family now live at the Hirsal. near Kelso.
Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth was head of a wealthy Presbyterian family whose home was at Redbraes (now named Marchmont). He was a great advocate of freedom and his views of civil and religious liberty were not popular with the authorities. During those days of religious intolerance, it was dangerous to hold and expound radical beliefs. At first he was regarded with suspicion and then was condemned as one who threatened the integrity of the Catholic monarchy.
Shocked by the news of his friend’s death and learning that Redcoats had been sent out to round up all suspects, Sir Patrick knew that it was only a matter of time before the soldiers would be at the gate. He reluctantly decided that he must go into hiding until the danger was over.
With the help of his wife and daughter Grisell, Sir Patrick selected as a place of concealment the vault of the church on the hill. There he would hide until the immediate danger had passed. Only one other person was allowed to share their secret, an old and trusted servant, Jamie Winter. The
secret was even kept from Grisell's brothers and sisters lest some innocent remark would bring them ruin.
That evening all four made their way to the church carrying a few essentials.
The family vault was dark and dismal having no comforts and a floor of bare earth. The entrance was well concealed from within and, to the outside, there was only a small grilled opening that was well hidden by old gravestones and bushes.
A simple bed was set up and Sir Patrick was left alone in his cold and inhospitable cell. The hours passed and presently he heard the clatter of the soldiers' horses and the harsh shouts of orders. To his relief the troopers moved on and Patrick
stretched himself on the makeshift bed and, in spite of the cold, fell into a deep sleep.
Suddenly, who was awakened by a voice calling him. He was relieved to see that it was his daughter Grisell at the barred opening and she had brought with her some food and a few little comforts.
Grizell was a girl with great spirit and with a wisdom and dedication far beyond her years. She was the eldest of ten children and, without complaint; she assumed the role of carer to her younger brothers and sisters, and attended to any work that needed doing throughout the household.
Only twelve years old, every night Grisell braved the terrors of the night to visit her father. The mile walk must have been a journey of dread for the young girl but she never missed a night taking with her whatever food she could secret away from the dinner table at Redbraes. Then she would relate to her father all the little happenings of the day at Redbraes and any more serious news she may have. He looked forward immensely to her daily visits bringing him food and few little comforts but it was the companionship of her presence that brought the greatest joy to Patrick.
Whatever the weather and no matter what frightening shadows and eerie noises she encountered on the way, Grisell never failed to visit her father. She was always able to take with her some food she surreptitiously transferred from her plate to her lap.
At times she found it very difficult to keep her secret and amongst her brother and sisters she gained a reputation for having a huge appetite yet she must have gone hungry many times.
On one occasion her brother cried out in amazement: “Look Mother at Grisell! While we have been eating our broth, she has eaten a whole sheep’s heid!”
Day after day Patrick concealed himself in the miserable vault, but meanwhile Grisell and the old servant Jamie was preparing a place for him within the house of Redbrae. Underneath the floorboards they dug out a hole in the earth, using their bare hands lest the noise of a tool drew attention to
their activities. They disposed of the excavated earth by wrapping it in a sheet and passing it out of the window. Progress was slow but eventually a cavity was excavated which they regarded as big enough. It was dry and they lined it with boards taken from old furniture.
Then one night Sir Patrick moved to his new abode. He had been a month in Polwarth Church vault and Grisell had never missed a night to visit him even though she had worked with Jamie on the new excavations and helped out with all the other family chores.
Sir Patrick was able to have a rather more comfortable life only using the secret recess when immediate danger threatened. But the risks were high and, after several times narrowly escaping capture, he was forced to say goodbye to his family and flee to Holland where he was welcomed.
Back home, his estates were confiscated, and his wife and family were obliged to join him in Holland. They had a dreadful journey, filled with danger, but throughout it all they were supported by the diligence and courage of young Grisell who tackled all the little problems that arose and kept up
the spirits of the children with songs and stories.
The family spent many years in exile in Holland but eventually, after the accession of the Prince of Orange to the British throne, Sir Patrick Hume and his family returned to Scotland.
His forfeited estates were restored to him. He was honoured by the new monarchy and appointed Sheriff of Berwick besides other high-ranking posts.
Grizel was at last free to put her own happiness first. In 169o she married her childhood sweetheart George Baillie, son of Robert Baillie of Jerviswoode, who suffered a martyr's fate at the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh in 1684. They made their home at Mellerstain in Berwickshire and lived there together for 48 years.
Grisell died in December 1746, at the age of 82, and was buried at Mellerstain on the anniversary of her birthday.
The family motto was: 'True to the end.' and so was Grisell.
Within Polwarth Church, among the many interesting items preserved, is a pulpit frontal embroidered by the hands of Lady Grisell Baillie.